Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
AnalogGuy1
KVRian
560 posts since 6 Mar, 2005 from USA

Post Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:25 pm

I teach college classes in analog and digital signal processing. Many students, typically second semester sophomores, don't really viscerally "get" what a filter does, and many struggle with understanding what the frequency domain is intuitively.

I'm looking for recommendations for a very "visual" yet generally simple synth, one that shows a picture of the waveform coming out of the oscillator (horizontal axis is time), and similarly a picture of the filter's response (the magnitude of its transfer function, horizontal axis is frequency) that changes with it's filter modulation envelope.

The synth doesn't have to sound amazing, just something that lets them hear and see at the same time what various waveforms look like in the time and frequency domains, the effect of a HP and LP filter on it, and the (sound and visual) effect of modulating the filter cutoff with a simple ADSR envelope.

I've seen a number of scopes that show pictures of one cycle of the oscillator, but it isn't as common to shows the filter response, especially not one that shows the cutoff modulated in real-time.

I know I could achieve much of the same effects by hosting any typical VST and attaching oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer VSTS to the signal chain, but I'd prefer the simplicity of all this on one VST screen if possible since the resolution of an LCD projector is pretty bad compared to modern day laptop screen resolutions.

Do you know of VSTi's out there already with these visual features?

User avatar
crimsonwarlock
KVRAF
2118 posts since 18 Apr, 2001 from The Netherlands

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:29 pm

Maybe VCV Rack with a bunch of scopes patched to various points in the signal chain. Would also nicely show how a signal chain is build inside a sound patch.
CrimsonWarlock aka TechnoGremlin, using Reaper and a fine selection of freeware plugins.

Ragnarök VST-synthesizer co-creator with Full Bucket

User avatar
Forgotten
KVRian
1093 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:04 pm

Audulus has some good visual tools that can be added to patches, and you can build pretty simple patches with it

User avatar
Michael L
KVRAF
2715 posts since 25 Jan, 2014 from The End of The World as We Knowit

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:08 pm

MuLab or MUX. You can make a custom synth with a giant oscilloscope and spectrogram and different filter types.
It’s used often in schools for that purpose.

User avatar
Benedict
KVRAF
2816 posts since 5 Mar, 2004 from Gold Coast Australia

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:25 pm

I have used the Visualizer Window in Reason along with Thor & Europa. Propellerheads are very good with Education licenses I believe.

https://youtu.be/RZxjsS8K2rw

:-)

User avatar
Andywanders
KVRAF
2581 posts since 3 Aug, 2003 from Narnia

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:37 am

Synthedit...

http://www.synthedit.com/

...

AnX
KVRAF
4903 posts since 17 Nov, 2015

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:56 am

Andywanders wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:37 am
Synthedit...

http://www.synthedit.com/

...


indeed, you can insert a scope after every stage if you wish

daw.one
KVRist
83 posts since 16 Nov, 2016

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:38 am

No VSTi, but the expanded device view of Polysynth in Bitwig (8-track too) is great for that (and it can be full screen).
Expanded_device_view_of_Polysynth.png
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

12deadpixels
KVRist
52 posts since 14 Nov, 2016

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:41 am

crimsonwarlock wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:29 pm
Maybe VCV Rack with a bunch of scopes patched to various points in the signal chain. Would also nicely show how a signal chain is build inside a sound patch.
I second this advice. I would also add Reaktor 6 Rack (which is also free). Perhaps you could provide them a starting template and go from there?

User avatar
] Peter:H [
KVRian
790 posts since 22 Sep, 2016

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 12:57 am

I think for educational purpose it would be an option to "build" a synth step by step and with that explain the concepts, music in time, loudness, pitch, tone, formants, harmonics...
Have you ever thought about Flowstone? http://www.dsprobotics.com/applications.html
It's like lego where you build stuff from predefined bricks. I'm not a user of FLowstone and haven't really checked it out, but I guess they have oscilloscope and fft as modules...

Elektronisch
KVRAF
3243 posts since 3 Feb, 2010

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 2:03 am

Really? No one said Serum or Pigments?

Its perfect synth for learning, it gives you visual feedback how sound travels via envelopes, filters, lfos.

User avatar
Unaspected
KVRian
603 posts since 4 May, 2012

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:34 am

AnX wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:56 am
Andywanders wrote:
Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:37 am
Synthedit...

http://www.synthedit.com/

...


indeed, you can insert a scope after every stage if you wish
Indeed. Any environment like that. I was taught DSP with PureData when at university - which I would also recommend.

User avatar
pdxindy
KVRAF
15807 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:06 am

It's not a VST, but rather a DAW, however Bitwig, with the new modular Grid is a big, visual and easy to understand working space that can fill most of the screen. The modules are not attempting to look like hardware eurorack, so look clean and easy to understand. It is not a mass of wires or complicated looking. It has good contrast, high resolution and is an inviting and not intimidating workspace.

You can add an oscilloscope and/or spectrum display module at any point in the signal chain. You can resize them to make them bigger for a projector plus you can change the Spectrum/Scope display colors. You can add a Scope to the audio signal coming out of an Envelope, or to the Env shape itself. So it is easy to also visually show modulation signals. So you could show an Env modulating filter cutoff and see both the audio spectrum as affected by the filter side by side with a Scope showing the Env shape. Same with LFO's.

I cannot think of any workspace (and certainly not a single VST) that would be easier and visually cleaner while offering such flexibility of signal path. It would be simple to make a set of templates to demonstrate various synth structures.

User avatar
gentleclockdivider
KVRAF
1957 posts since 22 Mar, 2009 from gent

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:31 am

Visual aids will not help you teach dsp tech , mathematics will :)

With that being said , reaktor +r renoise ( built in scope ) is a good alternative , so is bitwig ( although costly ) and let's not forget VCV rack .
The beauty of these modular environments is that you can patch anything directly into the scope , even dc signals like envelopes
Kudos to bitwig for providing phase modifiers , routing a phasor ( phase vector ) into these modules give a beautifull visual reprensentation of how the phasor is altered /distorted like in PD synthesis , route that into a lookup table et voila .
A nice visula aid of how the (difficult to grasp) phase distortion works
Eyeball exchanging
Soul calibrating ..frequencies

User avatar
BlackWinny
KVRAF
3553 posts since 17 Jun, 2013 from very close to Paris, France

Re: Recommend a "visual" synth to help teach DSP concepts?

Post Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:17 am

The ideas from Andy, Peter and Unaspected are obviously the best.

And the remark made by Unaspected ("Indeed. Any environment like that.") is certainly the most important that I've seen in this thread.

Because yes, the best way to learn correctly the rudiments of the synthesis in a school is to learn to make oneself some little synths by building them module after module, and learning to build the modules themselves. With all the experiments on modifications, additions or deletions of wires, adjustments of internal parameters, smart architectures, smart organizations of GUIs, etc.

There are several offers which fit for this purpose: Not only they are fully modular but in addition they provide the bricks to make ones own modules with their relations, their parameters, their monitors, etc. All visually to let even the less clever students still follow and enjoy (considering that true languages as C++ and Juce for example are for next years and for those who will fully find there a vocation). Only PureData above is already something rather mathematical. The others are almost totally visual environments with bricks, wires, and parameters.

Things as Reaktor or Bidule are awesome also... but much more expensive for one or two dozens of licenses, and having tons of elements which may disturb the rookies they are certainly too much complex for first years students at school.
Last edited by BlackWinny on Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
Build your life everyday as if you would live for a thousand years. Marvel at the Life everyday as if you would die tomorrow.
I'm now severely diseased since September 2018.

Return to “Instruments”